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Grazing Strategies

Grazing Strategies

Grazing Strategies

There are a number of grazing strategies that can be used depending on how your land is being used. These factors include what livestock you are targeting, land size (and stocking pressure), rainfall in the area, which species of pasture is suited for your area as well as personal preferences (e.g. natural vegetation vs introduced). The common strategies are listed here and when they are useful.

Set Stocking

The simplest strategy is set stocking. When set stocking is deployed animals are put on a pasture and not moved. This stocking method can be used when you have animals that are indiscriminate feeders (they eat anything and have no health impacts from weeds that might grow), the stocking pressure is low and the pasture growth rate for the area is good.

The advantage of this strategy is the low maintenance and the lower infrastructure costs. Fewer, larger paddocks can be used and stock does not need to be shifted.

The disadvantages are the low stocking rates that can be sustained and lack of options when pastures need to be maintained (sprayed, renovated etc).

Rotational Grazing

One way to gain higher stocking rates and better pasture quality is Rotational Grazing. Rotational grazing means using many, smaller paddocks grazed and higher pressures and moving stock from one paddock to another as the paddocks become fully grazed. A typically rotational grazing system in a moderate growth are would use 4 paddocks with stock being rotated every 2 weeks. Would allow a 6 week rest for each paddock.

The advantages are higher stocking rates, better quality pasture, more management options and can be used for the more picky livestock (ones that just eat the good grass).

The disadvantages are more management as stock need to be moved regularly as well as higher infrastucture costs for the extra paddocks (fencing, water supply, shelter).

Strip Grazing

A simple explanation of strip grazing would be that it is Rotational Grazing without the permanent infrastucture. Strip grazing uses temporary fencing, e,g, electric tape with droppers, to contain stock within a strip of a larger paddock. The fence is moved as the strip is grazed down to release more pasture. This forces the stock to eat certain areas of the paddock. The best way to implement strip grazing is to ensure the strip just grazed is not accessible, however to avoid requiring multiple water supplies often the fencing is moved to just open up more area.

The advantages are similar to rotational grazing without the permanent infrastructure costs.

The disadvantage compared with rotational grazing is the labour required to move temporary fencing. Also if you don’t exclude the grazed areas your strips do not get the same rest. They still have the hoof pressure and new growth will often be eaten over the more abundant older growth.

Cell Grazing

A more aggressive form of Rotational Grazing is Cell Grazing. Even smaller areas are used and stock is moved daily. Cell grazing is an intensive farming method which allows full control over what is eaten and when. It provides a better grazing coverage and ensures there are no rank areas that are left by fussier stock types. The obvious disadvantage of this method is the high labour cost, however in an intensive farming operation this can be a system that provides great results.

Cross Grazing

Every stock type has it’s own grazing habits. Stocking complementary stock types on a pasture an often allow a more even grazing. This is especially used when stocking more discriminate grazers like horses. Horses will prefer eating new grass, and will eat new growth over older growth if it is available. They also tend not to eat many of the weed species and can have health issues if they do eat weed species. If these types of stock are left on a pasture weeds and old growth will be left and each year less good pasture will be available.

If another stock type like sheep or cattle are rotated on the pasture after the horses they will eat what the horses won’t. They will clean up the pasture. Cross grazing can therefore produce a better quality pasture in the longer term.


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